I’ve been abroad for almost three years now.
Up until last week, I’d never had a health problem.
For two years in Thailand, I was without traveler’s insurance (really really NOT smart), but I thankfully never once had an issue… aside from minor food poisoning and a touch of the flu.
About one year ago, I decided to be more responsible and proactive about my financial and physical health. In addition to getting my finances in order, I signed up for expat health insurance.
Two weeks ago, I suffered my first overseas health scare.
It started pretty small. I felt like I was getting a UTI (really common in women).
No big deal, I drank a bunch of water and cranberry juice and figured it’d go away.
About 4 days passed, and the UTI feeling stayed.
More symptoms started showing up.
I started to get severe pain in my stomach, which later spread to my back.
I lost my appetite (a first ever for me! I really really really love to eat) and felt really nauseous, almost without end.
Everything hurt so bad that I couldn’t sleep at night.
On the fifth day, the symptoms were at their worst, and I started getting severe chills and bone pains.
After a really hot shower couldn’t warm me, and I couldn’t stop crying from pain while feeling like I was going to throw up at the same time – my fiance insisted that I go to the hospital.
I gave in.
Now, you’re probably thinking I sound ridiculous for not going to the hospital. But I REALLY REALLY REALLY didn’t want to go, for a few reasons:
I know how Brazilian systems work.
Regardless of the system, regardless of what you need, two things usually happen.
ONE – You wait and wait and wait. I didn’t want to be sitting in a lobby feeling THIS bad. I wanted to try and see if it would go away on its own first.
TWO – Whatever you’re waiting on turns out to be of a lot lower quality than you’d expect for the time and money you’ve invested.
I don’t like to spend money.
Especially too much money on something that isn’t worth it (see above).
I’m a bit afraid of hospitals.
I worked in a hospital for a year during college (as a phlebotomist), I worked with hospitals for two years in Bangkok, but I’m still afraid of them.
even with a kidney infection I don’t know how to take a photo without smiling
After going to the hospital (which was a severely demoralizing and disappointing experience and makes me scared for the Olympics), and being diagnosed with a kidney infection, we filled a prescription for antibiotics and I spent the next four days recovering in a painful, sleepy haze.
I’m now over a week out from my hospital visit, and I feel back to normal!
If I can offer any advice to you – it’s to make sure you have health insurance while traveling (whether you choose traveler’s insurance or expat’s), and to treat an illness or problem as soon as it comes up.
If I would have gone to the doctor earlier when I was experiencing symptoms, the illness would not have progressed to a kidney infection and I would have saved myself hundreds of dollars.
Another friend in Thailand had a bacterial infection, which he didn’t treat (he didn’t have traveler’s insurance and was trying to save money). Eventually, the problem worsened to the point that he had to be admitted into the hospital in a scary life-threatening situation, and ended up spending thousands of dollars. He had to cut his trip short and go back to the US.
Don’t let it happen to you. Pony up for the dollar-a-day traveler’s insurance, and get your issues treated as soon as they pop up! Traveling when sick isn’t fun, and your life and health are too precious to risk.
Battling your own health issue? Check out tips for visiting foreign emergency rooms by clicking here.
Necessary Details: Rio de Janeiro
Have you ever had a health scare overseas? Any advice or anything you’d do differently?